Imagery as the key to deep geoanalysis within OSINT

17 October 2023 13 minutes Author: Cyber Witcher

Image Geoanalysis: Secrets of Digital Discovery

Images have always played an important role in the OSINT analyst’s arsenal. In this article, you will find a detailed overview of the techniques and tools that will help you perform deep geoanalysis of images, opening up wide opportunities for discovering, analyzing and interpreting information that is hidden at first glance. Images are not just photos or videos. It is a powerful disclosure tool that can point to locations, people, time frames, and other important aspects. Using specialized tools and techniques, it is possible to “read” the image, identifying details that remain invisible to the untrained eye. The key to successful geoanalysis within OSINT is the ability to combine and interpret data.

Trees, buildings, shadows, bodies of water – everything can serve as a clue for the analyst. How well you identify and analyze these details will determine the success of your investigation. With the help of modern technologies and software, geoanalysis becomes even more accessible and effective. Application of machine learning algorithms, automated object recognition systems and other innovative approaches make image analysis not only faster, but also more accurate. Every OSINT analyst should understand that imagery can be critical in the data collection process. With the help of deep geoanalysis, you not only discover information, but also create more reasonable and accurate conclusions.

So, let’s start!

When Robert (@osintaclaus) posted his challenge on Twitter, it was like an invitation to an exciting intellectual adventure. The gauntlet was thrown: decode the mysterious geolocation of the image using OSINT and IMINT tools. With unwavering determination, we accepted the challenge not just as an attempt but as an expedition to prove the prowess of analytical thinking and digital research.

Through strategic skill and a well-honed analytical approach, I was able to decipher the image’s hidden geolocation — all within an hour of its publication.

My quick response to this challenge

Fast and furious, we set out on a journey to dissect the image, uploading it as the first step. Armed with persistence and a sharp eye, we combed through every pixel to find the tiniest clue that could unlock the mystery of the image’s origin.

Original uploaded image.

After uploading the image of the call, we began a detailed analysis to uncover potential clues pointing to its origin. It is noteworthy that our attention was immediately drawn to the church depicted in the image. This architectural centerpiece was constructed using distinctive red brick and featured outstanding stained glass windows that elegantly embellished the building. The steeple was also tall.

Among the intricate details, we noticed that the facade of the church displayed red windows in white frames located at the top of the building. This architectural feature is consistent with the distinctive style often found in churches. Beyond its visual appeal, however, the image seemed to contain geographic features ripe for interpretation.

At a key point in the opening, we came across a bright blue sign that read “Stationsstraat”. This pointer was not just a visual element; this served as a critical clue to the location of the image. From a linguistic point of view, we understood that “Stationstraat” comes from the Dutch word “straat” which translates to “street”. This linguistic link was a strong indication of the image’s connection to the Netherlands.

Additionally, another sign in the image contained the Dutch word “uitgezonderd” which was accompanied by an image of a bicycle, which translates to “except” in English. This linguistic bridge provided a valuable context, suggesting certain restrictions or permissions in the Dutch context.
These cumulative observations, including architectural features, linguistic ideas, and cultural contexts, gradually led us to a comprehensive understanding of the location of the image.

Red windows with a white frame and spire.
The signs are written in Dutch.

We Googled the street name and realized that Stationsstraat is a common street name in both the Netherlands and Belgium. The spelling Stationstraat is also used.

A look at the Wikipedia results highlights the existence of many towns in both Belgium and the Netherlands that share the street name “Stationstraat”. To my surprise, this ubiquitous name found its way to about 30 cities where the corresponding image was taken. This large volume presents a significant challenge in terms of research and deduction. The need to meticulously sift through such a large number of potential locations is both frightening and exciting.

Wikipedia results with this street name. (SPOILER! The city was not listed here)

In light of Wikipedia’s findings, a strategic shift became apparent: focusing efforts on Belgium and the Netherlands. However, navigating the complex landscapes of the 30 cities spanning the two countries, all of which could potentially house the elusive Station Street, presented a major challenge. The task of singling out a particular church in this vast network was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Recognizing the need for a more targeted approach, we turned to a proven OSINT technique: reverse image retrieval. This method promised to harness the power of technology to simplify investigations. By submitting challenge images to online search engines, I aimed to find matches or similar images that could shed light on the architectural style and details of a particular church.

The beauty of this technique was its ability to compare images to a large database of visuals from around the web. This process contained the potential for significant urban narrowing, which warranted further study. Although the task remained difficult, reverse image retrieval became a beacon of efficiency in navigating the complex streams of this puzzle.

In our quest to narrow down the location, we turned to Google Lens, an image recognition tool in the Google ecosystem. Using Google Lens, I uploaded images of the church call to the system to find matches or similar images online. This approach combined human analysis with the help of artificial intelligence, effectively advancing the investigation. The integration of traditional methods and technological innovations demonstrated the essence of OSINT in action.

After using ‘Google Lens’ there was a breakthrough as the tool successfully recognized the church depicted in the image. A further cascade of results ensured a series of church-related matches. However, to refine the search, a strategic decision was made: add “Netherlands + Belgium” to the query. This modification was intended to direct the search to churches that share a common visual similarity in both countries. The intent was to pinpoint architectural features that transcend geographic boundaries, increasing the likelihood of identifying elusive terrain. This focused approach demonstrated a combination of technological assistance and investigative finesse, epitomizing the dynamic nature of OSINT strategies.

Among the array of results, a strikingly similar image caught our eye – it matched “MariaKerk” from Wikidata. This discovery became an important milestone in the investigation. The alignment of visuals between the challenge image and the ” MariaKerk” image served as a beacon of hope, indicating a potential connection to the elusive location.
This case underscored the essence of OSINT as a fusion of inventive research and technological tools, illustrating the potential for uncovering hidden truths through unwavering determination and innovative methodologies.

Example image from the call and results.

We clicked on the image to go to the Wikidata website. An intriguing discovery awaited him here. The image was associated with the Mariakerk, a church with roots in the city of Apeldoorn in the Netherlands.

Wiki Data results

Here is the full size image. We see a spire with a cross on top, red windows, large windows and the name of the street in a blue sign – all similar to the original image from the task.

A similar church
Blue sign, also with “straat” and “Stations”

We decided to search the name of the city on Google and get more information about the city. Apeldoorn is a small city in the Netherlands, located approx. 1 hour drive from the capital Amsterdam.

Google results for Apeldoorn.
Distance from Amsterdam

Then we decided to look for churches in this city.

“Catholic Directory”

We found a website that provides information about all churches in countries and cities, the result gave me 7 churches in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. Do you remember “Mariakerk”? The first result also contained the name St. Mary.

Results for churches in Apeldoorn.

This gave me the exact location of the church.

The exact location of the church

We decided to go to the official website of the “Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency” ( Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed) to try and check the availability of heritage sites in the Netherlands (Church).

The Wikipedia search also has search results for Apeldoorn church, but it is not similar to ours.

We used Google Dorks to find a church with a location and a church in the Dutch language “Kerk” on the official website of the Netherlands Heritage Agency. + intext:Kerk
Google search results

He gave us full details and information about the church located at the address from “The Catholic Directory” website. It is indeed at the given address.

Information about the church in Dutch

With the help of Google Dorks, we also found a PDF file with relevant information about a potential church. (Monument number, date of registration, location, type of monument (church), etc.

PDF found

We found that this church has an official name other than “Mariakerk” – the official name is “Onze Lieve Vrouwe ten Hemelopnemingkerk” We decided to google it and found over 19k results, that’s a lot…

Free search without “Google Dorking”

We decided to dedicate our search to Google Dorks and added the “location:” command, which gave us 7 results! OHO. As you can see, the name of the church matches the address from The Catholic Directory.

Defined Google Search via “Google dorks”

Same image from WIKI Data.

I’m looking for JPG file with the name of the church

Here is the potential location of the church with the new name we found, and the same image from the WIKI data website that gave me the name Mariakerk.

As the OSINT investigation bore fruit, we turned our attention to numerous findings gathered from various sources. However, the real culmination of this pursuit lay in the most tantalizing phase — delving into the physical reality of the place.

Our attention has turned to a specific address: ” Hoofdstraat 18, 7311 KB Apeldoorn, Netherlands”. Armed with Google Earth PRO, a comprehensive tool that includes satellite images, street views, maps and roads, we set off on a visual journey. The capabilities of Google Earth PRO proved to be invaluable in offering multi-dimensional location exploration.

When the satellite image materialized on the screen, the context of the call became a tangible reality. Streets, buildings and the landscape itself came to life in exquisite detail. This virtual expedition mirrored the real experience of tracing paths, standing virtually at crossroads and absorbing the essence of a place.

The skill of Google Earth PRO allowed us not only to observe a location, but also to see it in the context of its surroundings. This holistic perspective embodied the essence of OSINT—turning digital clues into tangible knowledge through a seamless blend of technology and investigative curiosity.

The culmination of this journey was not simply the location of the church; it was a synthesis of data, technology and research that unfolded in a powerful crescendo. The ability to bridge the virtual and physical worlds with tools like Google Earth PRO has embodied the essence of OSINT: solving mysteries through an insatiable thirst for understanding.

Satellite image of the city and church market in red, Google Earth PRO,5.967274,19
52.210963, 5.967255, Esri World Imagery

In an effort to delve deeper into the investigation, we discovered the potential of Google Earth PRO’s 3D view. This feature promised to open up a new dimension of location, and the anticipation was palpable.

As the 3D view unfolded, the environment came to life with extreme realism. Buildings took on depth, streets took on tangible shape, and environments took on an immersive effect. And then, in a moment of absolute triumph, the answer materialized in front of us — a resounding “BINGO!”

The church, the street and the setting were perfect for depicting the challenge. The intricate details that were painstakingly gathered during the OSINT investigation come together in this fascinating 3D view. It was a moment that resonated with the essence of a triumphant discovery—the culmination of relentless analysis and innovative tools encapsulated in a visual representation that left no room for doubt.

The journey from scrutinizing online clues to navigating the virtual landscape has brought us to this final point. The 3D view of Google Earth PRO was a grand finale, a testament to the power of technology and research working in unison. The “BINGO” moment embodied the heart of OSINT—an unwavering pursuit of the truth, driven by the curiosity and excitement of uncovering hidden knowledge.

Google Earth PRO, 3D building, red windows correspond
Signs, Red windows, Big windows.

Google Earth PRO Link:,5.967982,3a,75y,289.39h,104.25t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s554XLlwRdy6Hks4QP88zkg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry =ttu

BINGO! (Google Earth)

An old image of the church (1967) was also found. Found in the archives via OSINT.

Found an old photo from 1967 (see the old car on the left).

Guided by the challenge set by Robert (@osintaclaus), the journey through the fascinating world of OSINT was a testament to investigative art, technological prowess and an insatiable thirst to uncover the hidden truth. From the moment the task was set to the triumphant “BINGO” moment that marked the culmination of the effort, every step highlighted the dynamic combination of human intelligence and advanced tools.

Careful analysis of the challenge image revealed clues that go beyond pixels, weaving together a narrative of architectural intricacies, linguistic connections, and cultural nuances. Through astute observation and strategic use of Google Lens, the investigation worked its way through a maze of potential locations.

The climax came with the Google Earth PRO 3D view, the moment when digital navigational breadcrumbs merged into tangible reality. This culmination embodied the essence of OSINT: the relentless pursuit of knowledge, fueled by technology, driven by curiosity, and driven forward by determination.

The trip highlighted the potential of OSINT by demonstrating its ability to turn seemingly disparate clues into a coherent story. He demonstrated a seamless synergy of traditional investigative skills and advanced tools, showing that the path to revelation is paved with observation, innovation and an unrelenting passion for unraveling the unknown.

As the virtual exploration progressed, it became clear that the appeal of OSINT lies not only in the destination, but also in the excitement of the journey itself—a journey where every clue is a piece of the puzzle waiting to be solved, where every discovery is a triumph of human intelligence and the limitless potential of technology.

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